Carlos Sainz hails medical advancements for quick F1 return in Australian Grand Prix: “I’m confident I can jump in the car tomorrow”

Photo Credit: Scuderia Ferrari
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Carlos Sainz was fully participating in the traditional Thursday media duties for the Australian Grand Prix after his appendectomy just 14 days prior. After feeling unwell on the Wednesday in Jeddah he did participate in practice on Thursday, but it soon became clear his appendix was misbehaving and surgery was necessary. He was replaced for the remainder of the weekend by Ollie Bearman who made an impressive debut for the Scuderia, being the first one to do so since Arturo Merzario.

The Spaniard was convinced he is fully fit due to the “strong recovery plan”, but whether the sub-optimal preparation for the weekend has any impact remains to be seen. Sainz started with praise for the progress medicine has made over the last few decades, providing him with the possibility to return so quickly.

“It’s possible thanks to the advances medicine has done in the last 20-30 years. When my dad had the operation, they cut you open. Nowadays, with laparoscopy, they do three very little holes and that speeds up the recovery [to] two or three times as fast as it used to be.”

The Ferrari-driver referred to the appendectomy of his father, a two-time world rally champion, which was ‘commemorated’ during Sainz Jr’s recovery by recreating a hospital photo of Sainz Sr. and his father.

“The doctors, after the operation, said ‘it’s obviously going to be tight, it’s 14 days from the operation until I jump in the car on Friday, but it’s possible’,” Sainz continued on his surgery and subsequent recovery. “Obviously, they don’t know what F1 is and the g-forces and everything, but possible it is and I feel like it will be possible given how I’m feeling now.

“Will I be at 100%? For sure not. It’s not a lie, 100% would mean spending 10 days training, doing simulator [work]. I haven’t done that over the last 10 days, I’ve just been focused on recovering. But will I be fit to race? The feeling right now is yes and see how I feel tomorrow, and that’s tomorrow.”

Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari

Sainz and his team initially didn’t notice his appendicitis was what caused him to feel sick, as his symptoms were consistent with food poisoning, he explained.

“At the time it was very difficult to know it was appendicitis. On Wednesday, I started to feel really bad in the paddock and I got the typical symptoms of food poisoning, I don’t think I need to go into details of what that is, and I got a very high fever.

“I spent Thursday also with those symptoms, but obviously with medication,” Sainz elaborated. “When I was jumping in the car I was feeling a lot better because I was getting the medication.

“But then, after those two sessions I realised I cannot keep going like this for the whole weekend so if I’m not improving I’ll go to the hospital. I didn’t improve on Friday morning, which was qualifying day, [so] I went to the hospital and got diagnosed with appendicitis, which was not easy to diagnose because I didn’t have the typical symptoms.

“I got the surgery done, which was a great job from the doctors because as soon as I got it removed I felt back to normal and I could start to focus on recovering.”

Relieved from his faulty appendix he returned to the track a day later to watch his replacement Bearman driving a very solid debut, scoring six points in the progress.

“The doctors recommended I go for a walk after the operation and I said to them rather than walking in my hotel room I walk into the paddock, watch the race with my engineers and learn something or help my engineers.

“Ollie did great, he did a really, really good job.”

Sainz arrived in Melbourne on Monday, after a week of recovery where he stayed a significant amount of time in bed, letting his body heal. Which wasn’t always easy as the Madrileño explained:

“Every day I’m feeling a lot better. Every 24 hours I do lot of progress. It’s true that the first week was tough, a lot of time in bed and recovering. That’s when you see things a bit darker, but then in the second week the recovery speeds up a lot and I started to feel a lot better.

“I’m confident I can jump in the car tomorrow and do well. Obviously, I put together a very strong recovery plan since I landed back home to be ready for this race. I will jump in the car tomorrow, see how I feel, but I’m feeling positive about it.”

He adds that he feels his fitness will not be the main issue, given the work that he did over the winter break.

“With the amount of training that I did in the winter, and how fit I was in Jeddah and Bahrain thanks to that, I feel like I’m going to be fit tomorrow because it’s not like in two weeks you lose muscle or aerobic capacity.

“It’s not the same as spending 10 days training like I would have done and going to a simulator. That’s why I say I’m not going to be 100% fitness level, peak, but fit enough to race. That will not be a limitation.”

Colleague Alex Albon recovered from appendicitis prior to the 2022 Italian Grand Prix, and has provided Sainz with some advice based on the Thai’s own experience.

“I found a lot of support from Alex Albon because he went through a similar process,” Sainz said. “I think he got a few extra days than me because he operated that bit earlier and he got a few days.

“He said ‘yes you will feel a bit weird at the beginning but then you get used to it’. Let’s see. The problem is I don’t know. Until you put yourself in an F1 car and feel the forces, it’s impossible to know.

“What I know is that today, I’m a lot better than yesterday, and yesterday I was a lot better than two days ago. So with that progress, I’m quite encouraged and positive.”

Photo credit: Scuderia Ferrari

As always in these situations it remains to be seen whether the incredible G-forces of a Formula 1 car can be tolerated, but according to Sainz himself there is no doubt. At the moment.

“First of all, just by seeing me move and the exercises that I’m doing in the gym or anything, this tells me I’m fit to jump into the car tomorrow and try.

“I’m not stupid, and if I don’t feel good tomorrow I will be the first one to raise my hand and say that I need another two weeks to the next race. This, together with the FIA, is also the plan that we have in place. I have another check with the FIA tomorrow. They are monitoring my progress.

“I’m the first one that doesn’t want to be in pain or to suffer, to make it any worse. I will be very clear with how I’m feeling. On top of that, just going back to Thursday [in Jeddah], I wouldn’t have jumped in the car if it wouldn’t be possible. I did the 26 laps because I could, not because I was in agonising pain. Yes, it was not an easy 26 laps per session, but I could get them done.”

The two-time Grand Prix winner also explained how his weekend differs from a regular race, now he has to manage a recovery on top of the already hectic schedule an F1-driver has to go through.

“More physiotherapy, also with some machines that we’re using to accelerate recovery. The amount of time that I’ve invested into my recovery is not the amount of time a normal person invests.

“[There are] incredible modern machines that help recovery. That’s why athletes, when we have injuries, tend to recover quicker than other people, because we put ourselves into situations and machines and everything that helps to speed up recovery a lot.

“You need to think that over the last 14 days, all 24 hours have been centred around recovery. And together with a couple of changes that I need to do with the belts, with the sponges, just to protect the area, everything should be ready.”

Ollie Bearman, who is scheduled to drive the Formula 2 race in Melbourne, is on stand-by in the unfortunate case Sainz’s situation hasn’t improved enough yet.